If there were a time in the last six weeks that Anthony Beauvillier caught himself looking around in wonder at how things have gone for him, it’s long past.
The 19-year-old Islander sits tied for the team lead in points after two assists in Sunday’s 6-3 win over the Wild. He’s tied for third in rookie scoring, in among the big rookie names like Auston Matthews and Patrick Laine and doing so while averaging 9:29 a game, by far the lowest among the 76 NHLers with at least five points through the first 12 days of the season.
“He’s just solid,” said Alan Quine, a fellow rookie but four years older than his linemate. Quine scored his first of the season off a solo effort from Beauvillier, who blocked a shot, led a three-on-two, dropped the puck to Quine and took a Minnesota defenseman to the net to clear space.
“It’s remarkable what he’s doing at his age,” Quine said. “He’s just an easy guy to play with, he knows where to be.”
Fellow 19-year-old Mathew Barzal, the 16th pick of the 2015 draft, and Beauvillier (the 28th pick) made the team out of training camp. Beauvillier played opening night against the Rangers, picking up an assist in a 5-3 loss; Barzal played two nights later, a 2-1 loss to the Capitals in Washington in which Barzal picked up three minor penalties.
That certainly was not the deciding factor in Beauvillier playing the past four straight while Barzal sat in street clothes. The Islanders have decided that Barzal is only a center at this point in his career, while Beauvillier, also a center in his junior career, has shifted to the wing with the Isles seemingly set down the middle.
“He just plays with tenacity, grit, determination in his game and that’s the way he has to play,” Jack Capuano said. “He shifted to wing and he’s accepted the position. Wall battles are the biggest thing for a winger in this game and I think he’s done real well.”
Barzal remains with the team, though another week limited to staying on after practice for extra skating work would seem detrimental to a teenager who can only either stay in the NHL or go back to Seattle of the Western League. Shane Prince is due to come off injured reserve soon, so that may prompt a decision on Barzal.
But it seems that Beauvillier is here to stay and play, so long as he continues to do the work.
“I know what I’m here to do,” he said. “Finish my hits, use my speed, play with energy. It’s not for the points, just do my job and keep working hard.”
Notes & quotes: The Islanders signed Steve Bernier to a two-way contract and placed the 31-year-old forward on waivers. If he clears, he’ll report to Bridgeport.